PNG Bougainville Prepares for Historic Vote on Nationhood

A pro-Independence rally gets underway in Arawa, Central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on 22 October 2019. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
BUKA / ARAWA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Nov 13 2019 – The people of Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea (PNG), have aspired to self-government for more than a century. Now their longed-for opportunity to vote on independence will occur on Nov. 23.  But, even with a clear majority in the vote count, the region’s future, which must be agreed and ratified by PNG, is far from certain.

The referendum is a provision of the peace agreement, signed in 2001, which ended a long civil war fought over indigenous rights to land and natural resources on Bougainville Island in the 1990s.  Yet the desire to manage their own affairs dates to Bougainville’s colonisation by Germany in the nineteenth century.

“I believe that independence for Bougainville is nothing new, it has been long overdue; 100 years. People already have chosen that Bougainville must one day be an independent nation and our governments, especially Papua New Guinea, must give us that freedom,” Philip Miriori, chair of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) in Panguna, Central Bougainville, told IPS.

In 1975 Bougainville leaders unilaterally declared the region independent shortly before PNG, administered by Australia after the Second World War, became a new nation state. However, talks with PNG’s first Prime Minister, Michael Somare, resulted in Bougainville remaining as a province.

But in 1989 conflict erupted when local landowners forced the closure of the Panguna copper mine in Central Bougainville, then majority-owned by mining multinational, Rio Tinto, and the PNG government, after their compensation demands for environmental damage and inequity were refused. PNG, a major beneficiary of the mine’s revenues, deployed the military and a guerrilla war, during which the death toll reached 15,000-20,000, then raged until peace was secured a decade later.

The main goals of the peace agreement are disarmament, establishing an Autonomous Bougainville Government, which occurred in 2005, and a referendum on the region’s future political status. The date of the ballot has changed twice this year to allow the Bougainville Referendum Commission, chaired by former Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, to verify the electoral roll.  Now more than 200,000 voters, about 67 percent of the population, will respond to the question: ‘Do you agree for Bougainville to have Greater Autonomy or Independence?’ during two weeks of polling to end on the Dec. 7.

Expectations will be high with predictions of an overwhelming outcome for independence. “Our people are excited because they have been waiting for this for a very long time. A lot of people have died. Our leaders, they have been talking about a referendum, so that the people can make a choice for what they want. Because if we don’t do it, another crisis will come back again,” Aloysius Laukai, manager of the local New Dawn FM radio station in Bougainville’s main town of Buka told IPS.

At Buka’s market, Ruth, a vendor from South Bougainville added: “I am really looking forward to the referendum, to voting for i678ndependence. I am voting for myself, but also for my children, my grandchildren and the generations that come after.”

Preparations have included completing disarmament after the United Nations reported in 2012 that ‘not much progress has been made in disposing of the weapons of war left over from the Bougainville Crisis.’  Several former rebel groups didn’t sign the peace agreement or surrender their guns. But, in a major development, all former combatant groups, including the Panguna-based Mekamui, held a summit in July, during which they signed a declaration to give up weapons and ensure peace during and after the referendum. 

“We have already completed the weapons disposal. Even if we are not part and parcel of the peace agreement, but we already participate. That’s on the ground, because we have one common goal…We are proud to go toward this destination, the preparation of the referendum and beyond. No more war in Bougainville, the war is over,” Moses Pipiro, General of the Mekamui Defence Force, told IPS.

Yet some women leaders remain concerned, even after the government declared the region weapons free and ‘referendum ready’ in late September. “The declaration on the weapons disposal was achieved, but the weapons are still there. The weapons are still with business people, for security reasons, and other people as well,” Celestine Tommy, Acting President of the Bougainville Women’s Federation claimed.

Security during the vote, to ensure people can cast their ballots freely, will be enhanced by a regional support team led by New Zealand.

But the greatest challenges will be after polling during intense negotiations between the PNG and Bougainville Governments. Many believe that PNG will be unwilling to see Bougainville secede, but Bougainville’s President, John Momis, emphasised in a speech to the PNG Parliament in August that: “The PNG government cannot just ignore the results of the referendum. It must take account of the wishes of the people as it engages with the Bougainville Government about the outcome.”

There is no deadline for the post-referendum discussions, which could be lengthy. And the process is likely to be interrupted if a decision hasn’t been reached when Bougainville is due to hold its next general election in early 2020.

Dennis Kuiai, Bougainville’s Acting Secretary for the Peace Agreement and Implementation, has said that prolonging the decision could provoke unrest. To address people’s expectations, the government will set up a forum for local stakeholders, such as churches, women, youths and ex-combatants, to strengthen grassroots participation in the high-level talks. 

If Bougainville achieves nationhood, experts estimate that building the region’s capacity to be self-sufficient could take from 5 to 20 years. Currently the government has no major source of income. Internal revenues have only covered 10 percent of annual expenditure in recent years, resulting in financial dependence on the national government and international donors.


Post-conflict reconstruction and restoration of services has, therefore, been slow. Dr Cyril Imako, Executive Director of Health Services in Central Bougainville, said that people today had a greater sense of freedom and new schools had opened since the civil war ended. But he added that maternal mortality, believed to be about 690 per 100,000 live births, and child mortality rates are very high and health centres regularly run out of basic medicines.

Bougainville’s leaders advocate redeveloping the Panguna mine to increase the region’s fiscal capacity. But this strategy, which carries risks for long term peace, is now on hold. In January last year the Bougainville Government placed an indefinite moratorium on mining after signs that disputes continued among local landowners about the mine’s future.

Women with Disabilities Speak out Against Exclusion at ICPD25

Jeffrey Jordan/ President of the Population Reference Bureau with ICPD25 participants. Credit: Joyce Chimbi / IPS

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – One in five women globally lives with a disability even as they have same needs and interests as women without disabilities, their access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights remains severely limited.

Delegates representing people living with disabilities at the ICPD25 Conference painted a grim picture of barriers and challenges they face.

“We are perceived to be asexual and therefore offering us reproductive health information is considered wasteful,” says Josephta Mukobe, principal secretary of the Kenya’s Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Motherhood remains taboo for differently abled women

Mukobe says motherhood for them is taboo, and that a pregnant woman with a disability is a phenomenon to be pitied, even ridiculed by society.

“We cannot enjoy pregnancy because people look at us and wonder what poor beast this is with a disability. They are even shocked that you even have sexual organs,” she expounds, and adds: “We desire love and active and healthy sexual life to raise a family.”

Under international law and multilateral agreements, governments have a responsibility to ensure equal respect, protection and access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as rights for people with disabilities. But this is policy – and a long way to practice.

Fighting Exclusions

Veronica Njuhi, chairperson of Women Challenged to Challenge, a movement that ensures women with disability develop a capacity to overcome barriers and discrimination, speaks of how she was continually excluded from training on HIV/Aids.

“My employer never included me in any training on HIV/Aids even though it was offered to all employees. When I confronted him, he was very shocked because he did not think I needed training on HIV/Aids,” she says.

Raising awareness

According to the Population and Reference Bureau, the ratio of people living with disabilities accounts for one in seven globally. Critically, 80 percent of them are living in developing countries where sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions are not only limited, but are most wanted.

Veronica Njuhi I’m conversation with ICPD25 participant. Credit: Joyce Chimbi / IPS

Raising awareness and strengthening protection for the rights of the one billion people with disability around the world has never been more urgent.

Girls and women are particularly vulnerable, and are more likely to experience violence. Young people with disabilities, under the age of 18, are especially vulnerable as they are nearly four times more likely than youth without disabilities, to be abused.

“When people with a disability overcome barriers, it is a representation of what is possible. The world is about all of us, no one should be left behind,” says Jeffrey Jordan, president of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), told IPS.

Jordan argues that the ICPD25 commitment cannot be achieved when one in seven people in the world are left out of deliberations.

Reaching out to the most vulnerable

“As we strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights globally, it is crucial that we reach out to the most vulnerable communities,” he says.

Given that they are the least likely to be educated about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, people with a disability are predisposed to greater risk of exploitation, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

“Sex is a private issue which we would also like to explore in private. This is not always possible because if we do not speak out, we will continue to be ignored,” Mukobe says.

She says that interventions must be tailored to suit their special needs, and that they need to be informed on what does not work for them. “A female condom cannot be used among those of us whose legs are crooked. A blind person cannot read without using braille to figure out if a male condom has expired because expiry dates are not written on the condoms,” she adds.

For women with a hearing impairment, the scenario is dire. When seeking health services, they often need to be accompanied by a person who understands sign language. Njuhi says this person is not always available.

“We are pushing for change and now public hospitals in Kenya have at least one person who can understand sign language,” she says.

“A person who is not deaf can easily be treated for a sexually transmitted infection in private. But those who are deaf are humiliated and shamed because they need someone who understands sign language,” Mukobe explains.

Njuhi further reveals that because of existing communication barriers, women with a hearing impairment have for a long time received the injectable even when it was not their primary or preferred contraceptive option.

“The health providers who did not want to struggle explaining various methods, their benefits and side effects, have found the injectable easy to administer. A woman will just be told to return after three months for their follow up dose,” Njuhi reveals.

We will not be silenced

Njuhi further notes the attitude that most health providers have towards pregnant women with disability has contributed to many of them delivering at home without a skilled attendant.

“Just because a woman with disability is pregnant does not mean she was raped. She deserves all the services that will help her travel the safe motherhood route without judgement,” Njuhi advises.

Mukobe decries the state of many health facilities, particularly public sector hospitals, for being extremely unfriendly to those with a disability. She says that beds are often not adjustable, adding on to the list of the many barriers they have to overcome.

Against this backdrop, delegates from this vulnerable community like Njuhi have vowed to take their rightfully place at ICPD25 “because it is not a global conference without us.”

Africa Investment Forum 2019: MOU brings good news for Africa’s rail networks

Another deal signed on second day of the Africa Investment Forum 2019

By African Development Bank
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 13 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Thelo DB on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg. The agreement will give both parties an opportunity to develop, finance and operate railway projects across Africa.

Thelo and Afreximbank have agreed to collaborate to modernise the continent’s railways, thereby promoting trade, investment, and economic and skills development. Both see the urgent need for efficient and effective transportation and logistics on the continent, particularly in the freight railway sector.

African governments have long been discussing the importance of the regional integration of infrastructure projects as one of the ways to both free and speed up the movement of goods in order to stimulate intra-Africa trade.

Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah said the two companies were committed to supporting trade on the continent. “That includes creating capacity to deliver to the markets. With Thelo DB’s capacity to deliver and operate railway mobility systems and Afreximbank’s ability to finance projects, we have an incredibly strong team,” said Oramah

Thelo DB is looking at projects in Southern, East and West Africa, which the company believes are home to corridors that transcend country borders.

The MOU is part of the realisation that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will face challenges without the logistical capacity to move goods.

“The MOU solves a very important part of the puzzle for us, which is, when we’re doing these big capital projects, how do we finance them? Rather than building our own expertise as Thelo DB, working in an integrated manner with Afreximbank magically gives us a solution to that challenge. So we can now sit down with our clients and say not only do we bring technical capacity of a global standard, we bring you unbelievable capital mobilisation in the MOU we signed this morning,” said Ronald Ntuli, Thelo Group Chairman.

Thelo DB is an incorporated partnership between the African industrial group, and leading European railway conglomerate, Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting. Thelo DB brings unmatched capacity to the continent’s railway sector. Some of its expertise include construction supervision, rolling stock leasing capabilities, rehabilitation of existing infrastructure and transferring skills through training and development programmes.

Afreximbank is a multilateral African trade finance institution, with the mandate to facilitate, promote and develop intra- and extra-African trade.

Last year’s inaugural Africa Investment Forum “Market Days” secured record levels of investment interest in deals worth billions of dollars in just 3 days.

Investors, project sponsors and government representatives discussed 63 projects valued at $46.9 billion involving seven sectors in 24 countries. Investment interest worth $38.7billion was secured for 49 projects.

AIF 2019 hopes to better that figure between November 11 and 13.

Media contact: Gershwin Wanneburg, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: g.wanneburg@afdb.org

Forced Child Marriage Must Be Stopped Says South Sudanese Child Activist

South Sudanese refugee, Priscilla Nyamal

By Crystal Orderson
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 2019 – Young women and girls are still subjected to a range of harmful practices and violence, including early marriage. Every year, an estimated 12 million girls get married before the age of 18.

In an IPS exclusive from the ICPD25 summit one young brave woman from South Sudan tells us her story of how she had to fight her family and community from becoming a child bride. With the help of the UNFPA in Kenya, Priscilla Nyamal is now advocating for young girls and wants the world to know that child marriage should stop. Priscilla shares her story to IPS.

A New Deal for Sustainable Development

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Nov 13 2019 – Almost nine decades ago, newly elected US President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the New Deal in 1933 in response to the Great Depression. The New Deal consisted of a number of mutually supportive initiatives, of which the most prominent were: a public works programme financed by budget deficits; a new social contract to improve living standards for all working families, including creation of the US social security system; and financial regulation to protect citizens’ assets and channel financial resources into productive investments.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The New Deal was effectively a fiscal stimulus for recovery, employment, development and environment goals. The Citizens Conservation Corps (CCC) created two million jobs in environmental projects for young Americans aged 18-25 years when the US population was 125 million.

The best known public works project was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an integrated regional development programme for an underdeveloped region. It built infrastructure to generate hydroelectric energy to sustain industrial and agricultural growth in the US Southwest.

Thus, the New Deal helped ensure US economic recovery, but also successfully addressed unsustainable practices that had caused widespread ecological, social and economic crises in environmentally fragile regions, and helped usher in a new era of economic growth and expanding prosperity, especially in poorer regions.

Sustainable development crises
Today, the world is in protracted economic slowdown. This crisis needs a similarly bold response, as the United Nations urged following the 2008-2009 financial crisis. But its New Deal was to be more global and sustainable. Public works programmes should move countries to more sustainable development pathways to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

First, it has to involve international solidarity, following decades of globalization, and inequalities among and within countries. Second, it has to be sustainable — economically, socially and ecologically. We face profound environmental crises, with global warming the greatest new threat with unprecedented ramifications.

Anis Chowdhury

While much attention has recently focused on climate change, sustainability is also threatened by air and water pollution, natural resource degradation, loss of forests and biodiversity, as well as socio-political instability due to growing inequalities, repression and resistance.

A new New Deal
A New Deal for our times should have key elements similar to Roosevelt’s, namely public works programmes and measures to encourage productive investments for output and job recovery, social protection and prudent financial regulation.

Most developing countries are vulnerable to the global financial system. While varied, they are generally less resilient and more susceptible to market volatility, often forced to pursue pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, exacerbating economic instability and undermining long-term growth.

This New Deal should support counter-cyclical responses in three main ways. First, national stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to revive and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only create good jobs in the North, but also have strong developmental impacts in the South.

Third, greater financial support for developing countries, as long promised, especially for development and climate change. The North should also enable the South to more effectively mobilize domestic resources, especially through taxation, and stemming illicit outflows of funds.

Setbacks
In light of the slowing world economy, and dim prospects for imminent recovery, resources are needed to strengthen social protection to contain poverty and hunger. Hundreds of millions in developing countries are at risk due to lower incomes, declining export earnings and other challenges.

A strong fiscal response should make long-term investments to accelerate ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive growth. Front-loading massive, multilaterally cross-subsidised public investments in developing countries in renewable energy and sustainable smallholder food agriculture should induce complementary private investments as spontaneous market forces alone will not generate the investments needed.

The Global Green New Deal (GGND) should include mutually beneficial collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Reforms of the international financial and trading systems should support sustainable development for all.

There was a glimmer of hope for such a bold coordinated multilateral initiative at the 2009 London Summit of G20, but cooperation and progress have been disappointing since, e.g., little meaningful progress on its Global Jobs Pact. With the mid-2010 G20 Toronto Summit U-turn, fiscal austerity became the new normal.

Meanwhile, creeping protectionism all around set recovery back further. Growing precariousness and declining living standards, blamed on imports and immigrants, have fuelled the ethno-populist backlash against Others, with multilateralism as collateral damage.

Global Green New Deal urgent
The urgency of an ambitious GGND has risen as most countries drift further off track in achieving Agenda 2030. After almost a decade of stagnation, countries must prioritize recovery, but not at the expense of others. Stimulus packages must lay the foundation for sustainable development.

Policy coordination among major economies should minimize adverse spill-over effects, especially on developing countries, which have become more vulnerable than ever, after decades of economic liberalization and globalization. Socially useful public works could contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation, and improve public goods provision.

To be sure, many other complementary interventions are needed. But such investments and government spending require significantly improved public finances. While revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can be greatly enhanced through fairer international tax cooperation.

Clearly, the agenda for a new New Deal requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives, but also far better and more equitable multilateral cooperation, through improvement of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.

2019 Africa Investment Forum kicks off delivering on the promise to redefine and unpack the continent’s investment opportunities

    • $500 million equity closed for the Africa Infrastructure Investment Fund to speed up investments in agriculture
     
    • Financial close for the Africa Guarantee Fund $175 Equity transaction to support Small and Medium Size Enterprises, and $350 million for South Africa’s beef agro-processing project

By African Development Bank
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 12 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The 2019 Africa Investment Forum opened on Monday living up to its promise to move from commitment to action.

A $500 million equity deal presented by the Africa Infrastructure Investment Fund last year, to speed up investments in agriculture, and a $175 million equity transaction from the Africa Guarantee Fund for investors to support Small and Medium Size Enterprises, are among the transactions that found financial close over the past year.

The opening ceremony was attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa; President Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; and Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosario of Mozambique.

“The time is now to move with speed to ensure that we unlock our potential…Indeed our continent is ripe for investments, but more importantly, it is also brimming with enormous profitable opportunities,” President Ramaphosa said in his address, as he urged investors to move beyond pledges.

The Africa Investment Forum is an innovative, multi-stakeholder transactional marketplace conceived by the African Development Bank, aimed at raising capital, advancing projects to the bankable stage, and accelerating financial closure of deals.

“As the investor community, your presence here shows your unwavering will to help us and support us to succeed. I invite you, therefore, to join us as we pass the flickering torch of progress across every border of this great continent until the light of development and economic prosperity illuminates every African village, every African town, every African city, in every African household.” he said.

The inaugural Africa Investment Forum secured investment interests for deals valued at $38.7 billion in less than 72 hours. “A lot of progress has been made on these investment interests,” with a highly dedicated team of partners working around the clock to accelerate financial closure for transactions,” African Development Bank President Akinwuni Adesina said.

Another transaction tabled last year – a $600 million transaction for COCOBOD to help improve processing and value addition for cocoa – has also reached financial close, and will be signed during this edition of the Forum. Similarly, South Africa’s $350 million beef agro-processing project has reached financial close.

“Promise made, promise kept,” said Adesina. He noted that Mara Phones Ashish Takkhar made a commitment during the 2018 Forum. “In 2019, he delivered.”

“It is a new, more confident Africa. A continent now aware of its place in the world and determined to be a global investment haven. And Africa is harnessing investors’ interests and investments. Welcome to the Africa Investment Forum, the place to be for investors,” he said.

Several leading figures were in attendance including, the Premier of Gauteng province, David Makhura; Tito Mboweni, Minister of Finance and African Development Bank’s Governor for South Africa; Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs and Ibrahim Mayaki representing the chairperson of the African Union Commission. Minister Philip Mpango from Tanzania; Minister Jean Jacques Bouya from the Republic of Congo; Mr. Vital Kamerhe from the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the high-level delegates who took part in the opening ceremony. Executive Governors from Nigeria, including Kayade Fayemi of Ekiti State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, and Adulrahman Abdurazaq of Kwara State.

Shortly after the opening ceremony, Masai Ujuri, President of the Toronto Raptors; Ashish J. Thakkar, CEO of Mara Group and Tokunboh Ismael Managing Partner of Alitheaia IDF Fund shared their views on progress made since 2018.

The Africa Investment Forum inaugural edition was launched in 2018 in partnership with Africa50, Afrexim Bank, the Trade Development Bank, the Development Bank of South Africa, the Islamic Development Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the European Investment Bank.

The Forum runs from 11 to 13 November in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Contact: Nafissatou Diouf, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: n.diouf@afdb.org

2019 Africa Visa Openness Index: African Union Commission, African Development Bank report shows wins in visa restrictions across Africa

    - For the first time, on average, Africans can travel to approximately 27 countries visa-free or with a visa on arrival
    – Ethiopia moves up a record 32 places on the Index, entering the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa

By African Development Bank
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 12 2019 (IPS-Partners)

For the first time, African travellers have liberal access to over half the continent, the 2019 Africa Visa Openness Index published by the African Union Commission and African Development Bank, reveals. The report was launched on Monday on the sidelines of the Africa Investment Forum, which opened in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The progress on visa openness in Africa follows growing momentum for greater integration between countries and signals that policymakers across the continent are pushing reforms, making it easier for African businessmen and women, investors, students and tourists to travel.

This fourth edition of the Index shows that 47 countries improved or maintained their visa openness scores in 2019. African visitors no longer need a visa to travel to a quarter of other African countries, whereas visa-free travel was only possible to a fifth of the continent in 2016. Currently, 21 African countries also offer eVisas to make travel more accessible, up from up from 16 in 2018, 13 in 2017, and 9 in 2016).

The 2019 top performers on visa openness rank among the top countries for foreign direct investment in Africa, and benefit from strong levels of growth, including in tourism. The Index shows that Seychelles and Benin remain the top two countries on visa openness in Africa, with their visa-free policy for all African visitors. Ethiopia moved up a record 32 places on the Index and entered the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa.

African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina said, “Our work on the Africa Visa Openness Index continues to monitor how Africa is doing on free movement of people. Progress is being made but much still needs to be done. To integrate Africa, we should bring down the walls. The free movement of people, and especially labour mobility, are crucial for promoting investments.”

The Visa Openness Index has inspired reforms in more than 10 African countries including Ghana, Benin, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Kenya, unlocking tremendous potential for the promotion of intra-regional tourism, trade and investments.

Despite the gains shown in the report, there is the need to move further. In 2019, only 26% of Africans are able to get visas on arrival in other African countries, up by only 1% compared to 2016.

Countries need to make more progress on visa regimes, including introducing visas-on-arrival. By breaking down borders, Africa will be able to capitalize on gains from regional integration initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Single African Air Transport Market, and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons.

“It cannot be stressed enough how crucial integration is for the development of the continent and the fulfilment of its people’s aspiration to well-being. I congratulate those member states that have taken measures to ease the procedures for the entry of African nationals into their territories, and urge those that have not yet done so to join this growing momentum,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

About the Africa Visa Openness Index

The Africa Visa Openness Index measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other countries in Africa when they travel. The Index is tracking changes in country scores over time to show which countries are making improvements that support freer movement of people across Africa.

Download the 2019 Africa Visa Openness Index and find out more here.

Contacts:
African Development Bank: Amba Mpoke-Bigg, Communication and External Relations Department, email: a.mpoke-bigg@afdb.org

Bureau of the Deputy Chairperson African Union Commission: Klenam Normanyo, Assistant to the Deputy Chairperson, e-mail NormanyoK@africa-union.org

How can Taps, Toilets & Good Hygiene Help Ensure Sustainable & Resilient Agricultural Supply Chains?

Credit: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

By Ruth Romer
LONDON, Nov 12 2019 – Water underpins the global economy and agriculture is by far the world’s largest water consumer, accounting for 70% of freshwater withdrawals. Global water demands are projected to increase by 55% by 2050 and climate change will present further pressures on water accessibility.

Many agricultural supply chains, from the smallholder to large commercial farms, originate in countries where large proportions of the population have no access to safely managed water and sanitation services, such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and this presents various social and environmental challenges.

Companies reliant upon the agricultural supply chain have a significant role to play in the management of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as well as a stake in ensuring supply chain security.

A new booklet ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Three Essential Ingredients to Resilient Agricultural Supply Chains’ launches this week at the annual Alliance for Water Stewardship forum.

Co-authored by Alliance for Water Stewardship, Diageo, UN CEO Water Mandate, WaterAid and WASH4Work, it highlights why and how companies that rely on agricultural supply chains should invest in WASH management.

Having reliable access to these basic services would not only improve the health and welfare of the workers; it can support a resilient business whilst helping mitigate against the impacts of climate change.

Why do companies with an agricultural supply chain need to invest in WASH?

Access to adequate WASH services remains critical at every stage in agricultural supply chains. The following physical, financial, reputational and regulatory risks and opportunities need to be managed within an environmental and social lens to ensure long-term economic benefits:

    • Physical – Projections show that more than 40% of people will live in areas of severe water stress by 2050. Together with declining water quality issues, this will exacerbate the challenges of water availability for households and crops. The lack of decent sanitation for agricultural workers can also have a detrimental effect on the quality of local water resources.

    • Financial – At the macro-economic scale, it is estimated that every US $1 invested in WASH generates US$ 4.30 through increased productivity. In collaboration with partners, WaterAid is driving more work on the micro-economic business return on investment.

    • Reputation – Responsible water management and adequate access to WASH for workers and surrounding communities not only benefits the health and dignity of staff and farmers, but also stakeholder relations. Companies with a good reputation can reap business benefits.

    • Regulation and compliance –The United Nations mandates clean water and decent sanitation as a basic human right – and it is a state’s obligation and a company’s responsibility to respect human rights. Internal corporate policy or HR policy, which incorporates WASH elements or global targets, can also help drive internal compliance and alignment with business as usual practices.

How can companies prioritise WASH?

For many companies, the environmentally focused elements associated with access to water to produce the raw material, as well as water-use efficiency and discharge in processing, are often prioritised over the social elements.

However, WASH can be a risk to social license to operate and production capabilities, so water security for business operations requires a more holistic approach.

WASH management should integrate considerations of not only the workers, but also the broader supply chain and the communities in which the workers live.

Once fully embedded within a company’s corporate water stewardship plan with clear corporate policy commitments or targets, the local level implementation can be easier, especially if there is top-down endorsement.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard provides a useful framework for a company to consider WASH management issues at site-level.

The booklet does not intend to provide detailed site-level guidance; however, it provides a primer to build the case for action. It
highlights, alongside associated guidance, the following recommended steps:

    • Champion the integration of WASH into the company’s corporate water stewardship strategy.
    • Assess WASH needs at the local level to understand the shared potential water challenges, risks, impacts and opportunities.
    • Develop a local level WASH stewardship plan including targets.
    • Engage with a third-party provider to support practical action and implementation if in-house resources do not exist.
    • Engage with global initiatives to learn from the experience of others.

One in ten people lack clean water while one in four have no decent toilet. While many companies have provided access to these basic services at their workplaces, the real opportunity lies across supply chains, particularly agricultural ones.

Only then can business truly support universal access to WASH as well as working towards sustainable and resilient supply chains.

Find out more at https://washmatters.wateraid.org/publications/water-sanitation-hygiene-resilient-agriculture-supply-chains.

2019 African Investment Forum builds on 2018 successes, attracts growing international interest

By African Development Bank
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 12 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Africa Investment Forum is making phenomenal progress in attracting interest from all over the world since launching at the Sandton Convention Centre last year. The value of boardroom transactions which will be negotiated this year will be considerably higher compared to $43bn in 2018.

A hundred and nine countries are represented at this year’s conference, 61 of which are not African, indicating growing international interest in the annual gathering.

International financiers spoke at Monday morning’s press conference about the need for African countries to work together in order to speed up the continent’s international appeal as a lucrative investment destination.

Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah expressed concern over the fragmentation of 55 markets on the continent. “Until Africa forms a common platform for an economic and integrated continent, some countries will not survive. All around the world continents are working together. Multilateralism is becoming a challenge and unless the continent comes together we cannot negotiate with bigger economies,” said Oramah.

A growing number of companies attend investment conferences around the world, looking for opportunities. The Africa Investment Forum 2019 has 29 countries that are participating in deals on the table. Last year, the African Development Band invested $18bn in low-income countries and fragile states which many developed economies regard as too risky. The African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said the bank is not scared of going into those countries. “It is my neighbourhood and my neighbourhood cannot be risky. That’s why the Bank has a facility that is called the private sector enhancement facility, which allows us to go into risky investments. We invest in places where people think we can never go and we don’t lose money there. We are going to make sure that investment continues to go into low-income and fragile states.”

One of the success stories following last year’s conference is the agreement the Bank signed with the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB). TDB President Admassu Tadesse explains, “It helps if you find partners you can scale-up collectively. We have signed with the African Development Bank a risk participation agreement that amounts to $300m that allows us to move speedily into deals and have partners that will work alongside us.”

The TDB will also be signing an agreement with the European Union Bank.

The Africa Investment Forum is an innovative, multi-stakeholder transactional marketplace conceived by the African Development Bank, aimed at raising capital, advancing projects to the bankable stage, and accelerating financial closure of deals.

The 2018 inaugural Africa Investment Forum secured investment interests for deals valued at 38.7 billion — in less than 72 hours.

The 2019 Forum runs from 11 to 13 November in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Contact: Amba Mpoke-Bigg, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: a.mpokebiggg@afdb.org

Cairo Dream Requires $264 Billion to Deliver Women’s Call for Justice and Bold Leadership

By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 2019 – For each of the 830 women dying each day from pregnancy complications and childbirth, an estimated 20 others suffer serious injuries, infections or disabilities.

This is the reality that millions of women face, and informs the Nairobi Summit’s three critical commitments which are to bring preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices, as well as unmet need for family planning, to zero. To achieve this objective money is needed.

Joyce Chimbi

Finding the money for commitments

Private sector organisations including the Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Philips and World Vision, announced that the world as envisioned in Cairo in 1994 will cost $264 billion to deliver.

“Building financial momentum and bridging existing resource gaps around these commitments will not be easy. While most countries have constitutionalised reproductive health and rights, mobilising domestic resources has not automatically followed,” says Nerima Were, programme manager of the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues told IPS.

How much will it really cost to deal with family planning?

To bring maternal mortality to zero in the 120 countries that account for over 95 percent of maternal mortality will cost $115.5 billion in key maternal health interventions.

Ending the unmet need for family planning in the same number of priority countries will cost $68.5 billion. Ending gender-based violence will require investing 42 billion dollars in 132 priority countries.

Currently, only $42 billion in development assistance is expected to be spent on advancing these goals. It, therefore, means that an additional $222 billion in investments will be required over the next decade.

Who will really fund commitments?

Were says that envisioning and articulating what form and shape these investments will take, is critical. She argues that at the moment it is not clear whether these additional costs will be raised in foreign investments, domestic allocation or private spending.

“This discussion is not just about dollars and cents but values and choices. It is also about translating choices into practical ways of making decisions,” says Achim Steiner, of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.

Steiner says that financial decisions can be framed in different ways, and that analysing the cost and gaps in delivering the three commitments, is a way to advise the world on how to invest.

Making informed decisions

“It is about helping societies to be better informed and to make better choices. The issue is not what it will cost to bring them to zero, but the cost of not bringing them to zero,” he argues.

World Bank data has shown that family planning is the “best buy” for governments. For each additional dollar spent on contraceptive services in developing countries, the cost of maternal and newborn healthcare could be reduced by two dollars and twenty cents. Importantly, estimates also show that every dollar invested in family planning pays itself back $120 in saved costs.

Africa must and can find the money

Researchers at the African Population and Health Research Centre indicate that African countries will need to dig deeper.

Budget underspending in the health sector prevails across the continent. “Africa has the resources to achieve these three critical goals. The exponential growth of economies across the country is reflective of the continents financial muscle,” says Jackson Chekweko, executive director for Reproductive Health Uganda, the member association for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Chekweko argues that political will and commitments are more important, and that “there will always be resources for what the government, especially presidents, say is a priority. African presidents wield a lot of influence on resource allocation.”

He argues, for instance, that Uganda made a commitment at the recent London Summit “to allocate $5 million to family planning annually. This has been done because the president said so.”

Bold leadership from Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta

Chekweko adds that there’s also a new generation of leaders such as President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya who will not shy away from making ambitious commitments.

“President Kenyatta made several bold statements at the ICPD25 Summit. He has declared that East African countries will reduce FGM to zero by 2022 and confirmed gender-based violence will, without a doubt, be reduced to zero,” he says.

Chekweko says that a demonstrable political commitment will encourage partnerships to help meet existing resource gaps. “Once we agree that issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights are a priority, the money will follow this purpose. Even if it means raising taxes such as VAT(value-added taxes) and PAYE (pay as you earn) by just one percent, it will be done,” Chekweko says.

Were adds that within the context of limited domestic funding, a scale back by external donors, and ambitious health and health coverage targets and domestic resource mobilisation, has never been more critical.

“To reach zero in all three areas, governments will need to carefully decide what their priorities are, anything that falls within that priority framework must be achieved,” she says.